Mike's Newspaper Column

Mike's Newspaper Column
Read Mike's column weekly in the Times Community Newspaper Family, including the legendary Kettering-Oakwood Times, and posted here the following week.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Please Deposit $.50 for Your Next 3 Minutes

by Mike Scinto

It doesn’t take much to get my inquisitive mind wandering. This past weekend, it was my cell phone. It wasn’t charged as I was about to make a run into town, so I had to leave it behind. We live in the township and the trip back and forth (including stops) could have taken as much as an hour. What was I going to do? My communication with the outside world was gone! I felt like one of the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 on “Lost”.

My first thought was to look in the garage for my old Midland 40 channel CB radio from the 1970s. That baby got me out of more than a few tight situations. I found it but couldn’t bring myself to dislocate the poor insects that had taken up residence in there. They looked like they were preparing for winter. So I suppose this journey had to be made sans radio or phone. Could I make it?

I did. And I’m here to tell about it. That little bout of insecurity likely takes place in homes like ours, and yours, almost daily. And that made me ask the question about how things in our lives have changed; and was it really for the better?

You see, I reminded myself that not so long ago, if you weren’t anchored to a wall in your house by a twisted up wire that seemed to get shorter with time, you couldn’t be on the phone at all. And if you were planning to call Uncle Billy in Missouri, you’d better have deep pockets to cover the long distance charges.

If your phone service was down, you could always run to the nearby corner gas station or shopping center and use one of the myriad of pay phones you’d practically trip over. In my recent panic I did a visual search of the territory I covered, in case of an emergency; not a phone booth to be seen ANYWHERE! All I saw were the empty shells where that link with the outside world used to reside, awaiting our dimes and quarters; and perhaps Clark Kent’s quick change into Superman. I guess he has to use the back seat of his car now.

I don’t know about you but I feel absolutely naked when I am out in the real world without my phone. And try to get a teen to part with theirs. This is not one of those “I remember when gas used to be a nickel a gallon” stories from the turn of the last century. This has happened in the blink of an eye. The technology is growing so fast it’s really hard to keep up.

My wife and I just recently joined the iphone crowd. I’m not bragging. They had to get me there kicking and screaming until I realized how amazing this little thing can be. My wife is a systems engineer, and has been for three decades. Our phones, besides calling Uncle Billy for free, can do calculations it used to take an entire room of her mainframes to handle. It’s a phone, a road map, a computer, an alarm clock, a trip planner, an egg timer, a phone book, a Day-Timer and a gaming device. It fits in my shirt pocket!

Our problems today don’t revolve around that anchored landline. No, the problem today is watching out for the other drivers texting while behind the wheel going 80 MPH. Then there are the drivers who used to be easily distracted by a carload of passengers yakking away, now doing the same thing into their handheld devices. And what about the choice of restaurant, not being based on the menu but on whether the establishment offers free Wi-Fi?

So the $64,000 question is; are we better off with these little gadgets that connect us with the world? My answer is that we probably are, as long as we don’t become even more dependent on them than our old landline phones had to be to that wall mount.
Mike Scinto has served as a radio talk show host for three decades. He can be heard on the syndicated “The Mike Gallagher Show” and seen as a contributor on the Fox News Channel. You can reach Mike by phone at 937-506-4288, via his blog at http://mikescinto.blogspot.com/ or by email at mikescintoshow@gmail.com.